The first wave of Gay Pride I felt was in June 1977 when I took the train downtown. As I walked through the Boston Common, I sensed something extraordinary. I moved toward a group of people listening to someone, who I soon realized was Elaine Noble, the first out lesbian representative ever elected to a state legislature in the United States, speaking on a stage to the crowd. (Noble was the first person who inspired me to take my first step toward a life of freedom, courage, and self-respect.) In spite of being harassed while on the campaign trail, she won 59% of the vote.
A year later, psychologist and grandmother Buffy Dunker spoke at Gay Pride from the same stage, exhorting us to leave the moth balls behind and come out. She wowed those of us in the closet that day. If she could come out at age seventy, I could do it too!
In the eighties, the Catholic priest at the Paulist Center told my partner— and wife for the past 43 years— “becoming Catholic is a choice; being a lesbian is natural for you. It is who you are.”
Growing up in the fifties, life seemed simpler and more predictable. Then in 1962, my father died of a heart attack. I thought I was the only kid in fifth grade who made a Father’s Day card for her godfather. After that, I looked to my brother Johnny, who was fifteen years older than me, for guidance. He willingly brought me to plays, movies, and invited interesting people in the music and theater world home for a homecooked Italian dinner. While my Italian mama fed me with the best raviolis made from scratch, Johnny fed me with musicals. He even mentioned me in a paper he wrote for class: “Every night when I arrive home from college I have to play either Carousel or Oklahoma for her, and she practically knows the whole score.”
All too soon, Johnny left home to follow his musical dreams in Hollywood, and I started college in California a few years later in 1970, to follow my own dreams and be closer to him. In junior year, I brought my boyfriend, Bob, to Johnny’s Hollywood apartment. The evening shone with a full moon. Afterward, and the two of us walked through the neighborhood, and in his truth-telling way, he declared that Johnny was gay.
“Didn’t you see the flowered kimono on your brother’s roommate? He changed quickly when he saw me come in with you.”
It surprised me to hear Bob speak freely about gay people. My eyes and mind began to open up as we parted.
I returned to Boston shortly after, and began pursuing my interests in astrology and the mind/body/spirit connection. The day I heard a woman preach the gospel at my Catholic church was the first time I knew I, too, was being called. Just three months later in 1982, I entered seminary to become a pastoral counselor.
I started to focus on holistic counseling at my local spiritual center. They focused on building community throughout Cape Cod, and advocating for the acceptance of LGBTQ people in other churches.
Many blessings came with accepting the gift of Wisdom and the unfolding of all that God created me to be: lesbian, pastor, counselor and artist.
During Pride week in June 1985, I had recently graduated from seminary, and was lost; I didn’t pursue ordination as a Roman Catholic woman like my Protestant classmates. But a week full of Gay Pride events were being offered, and one called “Gay Rites” attracted me. At the Old Cambridge Baptist Church, I heard a panel of LGBTQ clergy sharing their stories. Sadly, most of them were in the closet to keep their positions. Only one minister (Rev. Monica) had recently come out to her parish. The next Sunday, my partner and I saw her at the church.
Only one minister had recently come out to her parish, Rev. Monica. My partner and I began attending her church. She understood the crisis of coming out and the struggles to live into one’s authentic being, to be who God has created you to be.
One Sunday, Rev. Monica preached on a passage from the book of Isaiah. During the sermon she called out names of her congregants as she looked at us from the pulpit.
Four years later, in 1989, I made my ordination vows. My stepfather bought me my robe. My florist brother Anthony christened the sanctuary “Italian-Protestant” as he adorned the church with cypress trees and geraniums. The sexton, a refugee from El Salvador, climbed up the columns in the sanctuary to give them a fresh coat of paint. My family and friends filled the large sanctuary.
Twenty years later in 2005, Judy and I celebrated our 25th anniversary as a couple, followed two days later by our legal marriage at a United Church of Christ congregation on Cape Cod. Johnny walked with me up the aisle to the tune of “Somewhere.” He joked that he was upstaged by Duchy, our mini poodle wearing a tux with a red rose. The ceremony closed with the Tarantella.
The moment made me realize that Gay Pride is not just a day or a month but an ever-evolving expression of love, community, and vision. It is about appreciation, gratitude, wonder, and blessing – being all we can be.
Anne Ierardi is a writer, painter, and minister. Her memoir, Coming Alive, was published in 2022 by Shanti Arts. She illustrated the book Walking with Grief: A Healing Journey, and enjoys being with her friends and family on Cape Cod, playing guitar, and teaching astrology. You can learn more about her and her work on her website.